There are indications that the Lok Pal Bill, 2011 is likely to be taken up for consideration and passing during the current Winter session of Parliament. The Bill was introduced on Aug 4, 2011 in the Lok Sabha after a prolonged agitation led by Anna Hazare (see PRS analysis of the Bill). It was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice (see PRS note on Committee Systems). The Committee submitted its report on December 9, 2011. The report includes 10 dissent notes from 17 MPs. (a) Kirti Azad, Bal Apte, D.B. Chandre Gowda, Harin Pathak, Arjun Ram Meghwal, and Madhusudan Yadav. (b) Ram Jethmalani (c) Ram Vilas Paswan (d) Shailendra Kumar (e) Prasanta Kumar Majumdar (f) Pinaki Misra (g) A. Sampath (h) S. Semmalai (i) Meenakshi Natrajan, P.T. Thomas, and Deepa Dasmunshi (j) Vijay Bahadur Singh Presently, the government and the Opposition are in the process of formulating their stands on various key issues such as inclusion of the Prime Minister, the lower bureaucracy and the role of the Central Investigation Bureau. We provide a broad overview of the views of the members of the Committee on various key issues. Unanimity on issues On some issues, there was unanimity among the Committee members:
Dissent on issues Certain members of the Committee dissented on specific issues. In Table 1, we list the issues and the reason for the dissent. Table 1: Recommendation of Standing Committee and dissent by individual MPs
|Issues||Standing Committee recommendations||Points of dissent||Dissenting MPs|
|Inclusion of Prime Minister||Committee left the decision to Parliament stating that there are pros and cons to each view.||- PM should be included. - PM should be brought under the Lok Pal with some exceptions for national security, foreign policy, atomic energy etc. - The decision to investigate or prosecute the PM should be taken by the Lok Pal with 3/4th majority.||- Prasanta Kumar Majumdar, A. Sampath. - Kirti Azad etc, Shailendra Kumar, Pinaki Misra.|
|Grievance redressal mechanism||Enact separate law for a grievance redressal mechanism.||Include in the Lok Pal Bill.||Kirti Azad etc, Ram Jethmalani, Shailendra Kumar.|
|Inclusion of bureaucracy||Include Group B officers in addition to Group A.||- Include all groups of govt employees. - Include Group ‘C’. - Do not include bureaucrats.||- Kirti Azad etc, A. Sampath. - Meenakshi Natrajan etc, Shailendra Kumar, Prasanta Kumar. Majumdar, Pinaki Misra, Vijay Bahadur Singh. - Ram Vilas Paswan.|
|Lokayukta||Single, central law to deal with Lok Pal and state Lokayuktas to ensure uniformity in prosecution of public servants.||States should retain power to constitute Lokayuktas.||- S. Semmalai.|
|Private NGOs, media and corporate||Include all entities with specified level of govt control or which receive specified amount of public donations or foreign donations above Rs 10 lakh.||No private organsiations should be included.||- Kirti Azad etc., Ram Vilas Paswan.|
|Composition of search and selection committees||Selection Committee: In addition to PM and Speaker, it should include the Chief Justice of India, an eminent Indian unanimously nominated by the CAG, CEC and UPSC chairman and only Leader of Opposition of Lok Sabha. Search Committee: Mandatory to constitute. Minimum 7 members with 50% members from SC/ST, OBC, minorities and women.||Selection Committee: PM, Minister, LoPs of both Houses, two judges and CVC. Search Committee: CJI, CAG, CEC, Cabinet Secretary, judges of Supreme Court and High Courts. Selection Committee: PM, LoP in the Lok Sabha, one judge of SC and one Chief Justice of a HC, CVC, CEC and CAG. Search Committee: 10 members out of which 5 should be from civil society and 5 should be retired Chief Justice, CVC, CAG and CEC. Half the members to be from SC/STs, OBCs, minorities or women.||- Kirti Azad etc. - Shailendra Kumar.|
|Removal of Lok Pal||In addition to petitioning the President, a citizen should be allowed to approach the Supreme Court directly with a complaint. If admitted, it would be heard by a 5 judge bench. If President does not refer a citizen’s petition, he should give reasons.||Investigation should be conducted by an independent complaint authority. Heavy fines should be imposed in case of a false or frivolous complaint. Instead of the President, the Supreme Court should have power to suspend a member pending inquiry.||- Shailendra Kumar.|
|Role of CVC and CBI||CVC should investigate Group C and D employees. Instead of Lok Pal’s investigation wing, the CBI should investigate cases after inquiry by the Lok Pal. CBI to have autonomy over its investigation. Lok Pal shall exercise general supervision over CBI.||CBI should be under the control of the Lok Pal. The CBI Director should be appointed by the Lok Pal’s selection committee. The CVC should be under Lok Pal and the SVCs under the state Lokayuktas.||- Ram Jethmalani, Shailendra Kumar. - A. Sampath. - Meenakshi Natrajan etc.|
|False and frivolous complaints||Term of imprisonment should be maximum six months. Amount of fine should not exceed Rs 25,000. Specifically provide for complaints made in good faith in line with the Indian Penal Code.||The term of imprisonment should not exceed 30 days.||- Kirti Azad etc.|
|Article 311||Article 311 of the Constitution should be amended or replaced with a statute.||The procedure adopted by the disciplinary authority should conform to Article 311.||- Kirti Azad etc, Meenakshi Natrajan etc.|
|Finance||Lok Pal Bill states that all expenses of the Lok Pal shall be charged to the Consolidated Fund of India (no need for Lok Sabha clearance). The Committee did not make any recommendation with regard to finances of the Lok Pal.||Lok Pal’s expenses should be cleared by the Parliament. Lok Pal should present its budget directly to Parliament rather than through a ministry.||- Kirti Azad etc. - Shailendra Kumar.|
|Sources: The Lok Pal Bill, 2011; the Department Related Standing Committee Report on the Lok Pal Bill, 2011 and PRS.|
The Uttarakhand Assembly concluded a two-day session on November 30, 2022. The session was scheduled to be held over five days. In this post we look at the legislative business that was carried out in the Assembly, and the state of state legislatures.
13 Bills were introduced and passed within two days
As per the Session Agenda, a total of 19 Bills were listed for introduction in the span of two days. 13 of these were listed to be discussed and passed on the second day. These included the Uttarakhand Protection of Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2022, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (Amendment), Bill, 2022, and the Uttarakhand Anti-Littering and Anti-Spitting (Amendment) Bill, 2022.
The Assembly had proposed to discuss and pass each Bill (barring two) within five minutes (see Figure 1). Two Bills were allocated 20 minutes each for discussion and passing - the Haridwar Universities Bill, 2022, and the Public Service (Horizontal Reservation for Women) Bill, 2022. As per news reports, the Assembly passed all 13 Bills within these two days (this excludes the Appropriation Bills). This raises the question on the amount of scrutiny that these Bills were subject to, and the quality of such laws when the legislature intends to pass them within mere minutes.
Figure 1: Excerpt of Uttarakhand Assembly's November 2022 Session Agenda
Law making requires deliberation, scrutiny
Our law-making institutions have several tools at their disposal to ensure that before a law is passed, it has been examined thoroughly on various aspects such as constitutionality, clarity, financial and technical capacity of the state to implement provisions, among others. The Ministry/Department piloting a Bill could share a draft of the Bill for public feedback (pre-legislative scrutiny). While Bills get introduced, members may raise issues on constitutionality of the proposed law. Once introduced, Bills could be sent to legislative committees for greater scrutiny. This allows legislators to deliberate upon individual provisions in depth, understand if there may be constitutional challenges or other issues with any provision. This also allows experts and affected stakeholders to weigh in on the provisions, highlight issues, and help strengthen the law.
However, when Bills are introduced and passed within mere minutes, it barely gives legislators the time to go through the provisions and mull over implications, issues, or ways to improve the law for affected parties. It also raises the question of what the intention of the legislature is when passing laws in a hurry without any discussion. Often, such poorly thought laws are also challenged in Courts.
For instance, the Uttarakhand Assembly passed the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2022 in this session (five minutes had been allocated for the discussion and passing of the Bill). The 2022 Bill amends the 2018 Act which prohibits forceful religious conversions, and provides that conversion through allurement or marriage will be unlawful. The Bill has provisions such as requiring an additional notice to be sent to the District Magistrate (DM) for a conversion, and that reconversion to one’s immediate previous religion will not be considered a conversion. Some of these provisions seem similar to other laws that were passed by states and have been struck down by or have been challenged in Courts. For example, the Madhya Pradesh High Court while examining the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021 noted that providing a notice to the DM for a conversion of religion violates the right to privacy as the right includes the right to remain silent. It extends that understanding to the right to decide on one’s faith. The Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2006 exempted people who reconvert to their original religion from giving a public notice of such conversion. The Himachal Pradesh High Court had struck down this provision as discriminatory and violative of the right to equality. The Court also noted that the right to change one’s belief cannot be taken away for maintaining public order.
Uttarakhand MLAs may not have had an opportunity to think about how issues flagged by Courts may be addressed in a law that regulates religious conversions.
Most other state Assemblies also pass Bills without adequate scrutiny
In 2021 44% states passed Bills on the day it was introduced or on the next day. Between January 2018 and September 2022, the Gujarat Assembly introduced 92 Bills (excluding Appropriation Bills). 91 of these were passed in the same day as their introduction. In the 2022 Monsoon Session, the Goa Assembly passed 28 Bills in the span of two days. This is in addition to discussion and voting on budgetary allocation to various government departments.
Figure 2: Time taken by state legislatures to pass Bills in 2021
Note: The chart above does not include Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. A Bill is considered passed within a day if it was passed on the day of introduction or on the next day. For states with bicameral legislatures, bills have to be passed in both Houses. This has been taken into account in the above chart for five states having Legislative Councils, except Bihar (information was not available for Council).
Sources: Assembly websites, E-Gazette of various states and Right to Information requests; PRS.
Occasionally, the time actually spent deliberating upon a Bill is lesser than the allocated time. This may be due to disruptions in the House. The Himachal Pradesh Assembly provides data on the time actually spent discussing Bills. For example, in the August 2022 Session, it spent an average of 12 minutes to discuss and pass 10 Bills. However, the Uttarakhand Assembly allocated only five minutes to discuss each Bill in its November 2022 Session. This indicates the lack of intent of certain state legislatures to improve their functioning.
In the case of Parliament, a significant portion of scrutiny is also carried out by the Department Related Standing Committees, even when Parliament is not in session. In the 14th Lok Sabha (LS), 60% of the Bills introduced were sent to Committees for detailed examination, and in the 15th LS, 71% were sent. These figures have reduced recently – in the 16th LS 27% of the Bills were sent to Committees, and so far in the 17th LS, 13% have been sent. However, across states, sending Bills to Committees for detailed examination is often the exception than the norm. In 2021, less than 10% of the Bills were sent to Committees. None of the Bills passed by the Uttarakhand Assembly had been examined by a committee. States that are an exception here include Kerala which has 14 subject Committees, and Bills are regularly sent to these for examination. However, these Committees are headed by their respective Ministers, which reduces the scope of independent scrutiny that may be undertaken.